Perhaps because his reign as Israel’s first king ended so disastrously, King Saul is seldom held up as an example to follow or as one whose life demonstrates God’s grace.
However, the chapters in 1 Samuel that record how he became aware of his calling and how God prepared him reveal so much about the way God works. When you factor in that Saul’s accession to the throne was not only the story of his own spiritual journey but also the story of how a whole new era began in Israel, the beginnings of Saul’s story as king become all the more compelling.
Saul never had any intention of becoming king. Nothing indicates that it was an ambition that he harboured. In fact one of his difficulties was that he never really got to grips with the position that God had given to him. His own deep insecurities marred his reign and brought about not just his own demise but that of his family as well.
That was not the way it was at the beginning. 1 Samuel 9 records how Saul was sent to look for his father’s lost donkeys. During his search, he encounters the prophet Samuel and in the course of an overnight stay at the prophet’s house, Samuel anoints him king over Israel.
As he is about to return home, Samuel predicts that he will meet three groups of people on his way back to his father’s house. First of all he will meet two men. They will be able to set his Saul’s father’s mind at rest, by assuring him that Saul is well (1 Samuel 10.1-2).
The second group will provide him with bread (1 Samuel 10.3-4). And then he will meet a group of prophets and will begin to prophesy (1 Samuel 10.5-7).
It all happens exactly as Samuel says, and Saul’s journey towards the throne of Israel well and truly begins.
What has all of this got to do with us?
Firstly, sometimes God’s true purpose for our lives is discovered when we are getting on with our everyday lives. Saul set out to find donkeys. He came back an anointed king. Saul was not looking for answers or looking for strategies, he was looking for donkeys. Don’t neglect your donkeys! They might lead you into God’s purpose!
Secondly, the story reveals that, even in a time of change, God cares about family details. You might think that when God changes the shape and constitution of a nation, the last thing on his mind would be donkeys! But he cared about Saul’s family and about Saul’s worried father.
Thirdly, God cares about our practical needs. He cared Saul’s own physical well-being. He provided bread for him. Some might want to see a covenant application here or a foreshadowing of Christ as the bread of life.
Finally, God equips us for the task He has given to us. He gave Saul the anointing that he needed. He begins to prophesy.
At a time when our nation is changing and our world is changing, Saul’s story reminds us that God cares about the details of our lives. At a time when your world might be changing, God cares about your family concerns. He cares about your practical needs. And you can be sure that, just as in Saul’s case, he will equip for the task He has given you.